Massive Probation Reform Bill Signed Into Georgia Law
An innovative probation reform bill (SB 105) was signed into law today by Governor Kemp, with the goal of reducing the number of Georgians serving lengthy probation sentences. SB 105 – introduced by Senator Brian Strickland (R-McDonough), carried in the House by Representative Tyler Paul Smith (R-Bremen) and championed by Georgia Justice Project (GJP) – will go into effect July 1, 2021 and will allow individuals access to early termination of felony probation after three years if they reach their milestones.
Too many — 191,000 individuals — are serving felony probation sentences in Georgia, more than any other state in the nation. Georgia’s probation system has stark racial inequities – in every county, Black Georgians are at least twice as likely as White Georgians to be serving a probation sentence, and in some counties eight times more likely.
SB 105 reduces the number of individuals serving lengthy probation sentences by creating a pathway for early termination that individuals can access after serving 3 years of probation if:
- All restitution is paid
- No revocations in the last 24 months
- No new offenses
- A judge must still consider and grant the termination
As of the signing of SB 105, up to 25percent of all felony probationers qualify for early termination immediately, and more individuals will qualify faster going forward. The new law also provides a clear set of criteria for early termination for prosecutors, judges and probation officers. SB 105 provides incentives and hope for individuals serving a long sentence and saves Georgia $34 million a year spent supervising individuals who qualify for early termination.
Sen. Strickland understands the need for change, “Despite all the work we have done as legislators to reform and rethink the criminal justice system, Georgia still has the largest number of individuals serving probation in the country. SB 105 addresses this problem by allowing individuals who have proven their rehabilitation through good behavior the ability to access early termination.”
Georgia Justice Project has served Georgians impacted by the criminal justice system for over 35 years and was key in the passing of this legislation. GJP’s work touches every aspect of the criminal justice continuum with two goals: reduce the number of Georgians under correctional control (that is, people in jail/prison or on probation/parole) and reduce reentry barriers for justice-involved Georgians. GJP’s three-pronged approach includes direct service, policy work, and community engagement. The organization has helped pass 21 Georgia laws creating pathways for second chances for Georgians, including last year’s record restriction law making certain misdemeanor and pardoned felony convictions eligible for restriction, commonly known as “expungement,” for the first time in Georgia. Georgia Justice Project represents individuals that are seeking early termination of their probation sentence and began focusing on probation reform in 2019 after many years of seeing firsthand the negative effect of Georgia’s lengthy probation sentences on individuals, communities, and Georgia’s economy.
GJP’s Executive Director, Doug Ammar, praised this bill as huge win for reentry in Georgia. “Georgia Justice Project has been committed to helping Georgians impacted by the criminal legal system successfully reenter our communities. We are thrilled that many Georgians who have proven their rehabilitation will now have access to early termination of their probation.”
Georgia Justice Project, the Metro Atlanta Chamber, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, and the REFORM Community Supervision Coalition – which includes Faith and Freedom Coalition, REFORM Alliance, RestoreHer and the American Conservative Union Foundation – joined together in advocating for passage of this legislation.